“‘We basically studied the genomes of breast cancers from each of these women in
comparison to the genomes of the rest of their bodies,’ Meyerson told Shots.
“They found 40 or so key differences in the genes among the four major types of
breast cancer. The types are basal-like (also called triple-negative), luminal A
, luminal B and HER2-enriched.”
“‘We’re all — including myself — disappointed in the speed required to make thes
e clinical advances,’ he says. ‘It’s far easier to make a discovery than it is t
o translate that discovery into a clinical impact.’”
NPR: Scientists Parse Genes Of Breast Cancer’s Four Major Types
DAVID POGUE: First, a technician extracts pure D.N.A. from my blood sample.
This is my DNA?
Chris Riley-Portugues (Technician): This is your D.N.A.
DAVID POGUE: He then loads it into a small, disposable cartridge and inserts it into the machine for testing.
This test can actually read the letters of my D.N.A. And, using gold nanoparticles, it flags variations that might make me unusually sensitive to particular drugs, or even mutations that signal heightened risk for disease.
Less than two hours after drawing my blood, the results are in. It turns out that the test has some interesting news for me about my sensitivity to a blood-thinning drug called warfarin, or Coumadin. It’s commonly prescribed to stroke and cardiac patients.
It’s a potentially lifesaving drug, but if the dosage is wrong, it can cause fatal bleeding.
So what’s my warfarin dosage?
Jean Lopategui (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Molecular Pathology): What they call a double hit, I’m sorry to say.
DAVID POGUE: A double hit?
JEAN LOPATEGUI: You’re a double hit, so you have two genes that are mutated, and therefore you’re very sensitive to warfarin. Your calculated dose is 2.7 milligrams.
DAVID POGUE: See, I knew it! My mother always said it would be like 2.6 or 2.5, but I always said, “No, Mom, mine’s 2.7.”
JEAN LOPATEGUI: You should always listen to your mom, David.
DAVID POGUE: The nanosphere test gave me some crucial information…
Chris Riley-Portugues: This is the mutation.
DAVID POGUE: Ahh.
...quickly enough to save my life, if I’d been ill.
It’s a diagnostic tool. The next goal is to fight illness in the body, at the same tiny scale.
SAM WICKLINE: Okay, so, when we inject this, it will go in the bloodstream and find the cancer. Like a rocket-guided system.
DAVID POGUE: Sam Wickline has invented a nano-device that’s smaller than a virus. Engineered atom by atom, his hunter-killer robots are designed to travel by the billions in the bloodstream. They’re pre-programmed, by a doctor, to seek out specific types of cancer cells and then destroy them. With none of the side effects associated with current drug therapies. It’s the ultimate Fantastic Voyage dream. And it’s borrowing a page from these little guys.